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Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day? (Read 1150 times)

Offline dontcheeseme

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I have other hobbies as well, and also get easily burnt out hence the relatively short duration of practice I'm capable of investing. My aim is to eventually be able to play the CHopin Etudes or some of Rachmaninoff's works in 10 years' time. I'm doing this for growth and self-improvement, however 2 hours a day is a bit of a stretch for me (I'm aimin for the Buddhist middle path, and 30-45 minutes is for me just the right amount), too much of an investment. I dont aim to play perfectly, but rather to play at a modest level, maybe at parties or when the opportunity presents itself. Is it possible to make non-backsliding progress with just 30 minutes a day, especially for someone on medication.  I'm currently Grade 4 with some basic background in music theory. Also any advice or ideas, non-essential stuff that I should skip, since I'm aiming for a modest goal of just being your average 'mediocre' amateur pianist who will miss some notes here and there? (I'm more of a dabbler of several things, I've long since given up trying to be a 'professional' master of something, it's simply not my thing) Any advice, tips welcome.

I also don't feel comfortable forcing myself to play according to Grade books, I just prefer to find songs that seem relatively doable online and just choose randomly (at the moment I'm handpicking certain Chopin nocturnes). I just lose interest and just give up when I force myself to do the songs on my grade books in a progressive manner. Will this severely hamper my progress?

Offline dogperson

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #1 on: July 05, 2020, 11:14:10 AM »
You have already defined what you are willing to do, how much time you are willing to spend, and that you are only willing to dabble in music at random.  Will you progress to playing etudes in 10 years? No one can guarantee you that but how can that matter?  If you were told Ďprobably notí, would you change?  You have already decided what you are WILLING to do and are even asking what else you can skip.

Keep doing what you are willing to do and see what happens.  None of us should want relatively high level goals in anything but not being willing to make a relatively high level commitment  to get there. 

There are many unanswered elements: is your 30 min per day practice meaningful and focused or wandering?  Do you choose music based on your goals or is it totally by whim?  Is anything done to improve technique?  You should be seeing progress with what you are doing now if that plan will not change.  These are questions you should ask yourself, including whether you are willing to adapt if what you are doing is not working

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #2 on: July 05, 2020, 01:00:08 PM »
If you practice meaningfully for 30-45 minutes a day consistently, you can actually progress reasonably fast. However, it really depends on how you're practicing. It matters how much you're focused, whether you are specifically targeting weak areas, whether you are repeating passages mindlessly, etc. It may feel like people aren't giving you a direct answer to the question of how fast you can progress, but the fact of the matter is that it's nearly impossible to tell since learning doesn't work that way and people vary greatly in their strengths. Alan Rusbridger is a pretty extreme example, and iirc he practiced only about half an hour to an hour each day due to the constraints of his job.


I am a firm believer that you don't really make "backsliding" progress when you learn something. Sure, if you spend a few months or years not playing, and come back to it, your playing would regress somewhat. However, in my experience, playing the piano is partly a motor skill like riding a bicycle, albeit far more complicated, and just as you would never really forget how to ride a bike, you would never really forget how to play. While I'm sure that regular practice for upkeep does matter at the highest level, I don't think it works that way in the lower levels. At least for me, it pretty much hasn't. A couple of minutes every alternate day or so should be enough to just maintain an intermediate skill level.

Offline dogperson

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #3 on: July 05, 2020, 02:53:03 PM »
I donít find Alan Rusbridger to be a good comparison: he was taking lessons weekly from some of the best pianists in the world, sometimes for multiple hours per week, only worked on this one piece and it took him two years to be able to perform it for friends.  If I remember correctly, he started this project as a pianist who played in ensembles at piano camp. Itís been a few years since I read the book.

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #4 on: July 05, 2020, 06:23:21 PM »
I donít find Alan Rusbridger to be a good comparison: he was taking lessons weekly from some of the best pianists in the world, sometimes for multiple hours per week, only worked on this one piece and it took him two years to be able to perform it for friends.  If I remember correctly, he started this project as a pianist who played in ensembles at piano camp. Itís been a few years since I read the book.
Indeed, but I remember him saying that he practiced on average half an hour a day for long periods of time because that was all the time he could find. I was just trying to illustrate why it's so hard to talk about how much you would progress in a given time, and that there were certain cases where people have improved dramatically even while averaging small amounts of practice time. Even given a time frame of half an hour a day, it's really hard to know how much you can actually progress, unless you also control for the quality of learning. But that would defeat the purpose.

Also, after a certain amount of practicing in a day, you'll hit diminishing returns. That amount of time could be 1 hour or so, if you're working really efficiently in the initial stages. So, you might still be utilizing a good chunk of your maximum learning potential in that time frame. Or, you may just be drilling things which you are already good at, to no avail. At the same time, it takes time to learn how to learn efficiently, so that needs to be factored in as well. I consider Alan Rusbridger to be a good example of someone trying to maximize their learning rate, through dedication and by consulting leading experts.

Offline pianolover91

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #5 on: July 06, 2020, 07:59:50 AM »
You have already defined what you are willing to do, how much time you are willing to spend, and that you are only willing to dabble in music at random.  Will you progress to playing etudes in 10 years? No one can guarantee you that but how can that matter?  If you were told Ďprobably notí, would you change?  You have already decided what you are WILLING to do and are even asking what else you can skip.

Keep doing what you are willing to do and see what happens.  None of us should want relatively high level goals in anything but not being willing to make a relatively high level commitment  to get there. 

There are many unanswered elements: is your 30 min per day practice meaningful and focused or wandering?  Do you choose music based on your goals or is it totally by whim?  Is anything done to improve technique?  You should be seeing progress with what you are doing now if that plan will not change.  These are questions you should ask yourself, including whether you are willing to adapt if what you are doing is not working

Totally agree with you! Sums it up nicely!

Offline grade8pianoman

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #6 on: July 30, 2020, 11:21:21 PM »
No

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #7 on: July 31, 2020, 02:21:31 PM »

I also don't feel comfortable forcing myself to play according to Grade books, I just prefer to find songs that seem relatively doable online and just choose randomly (at the moment I'm handpicking certain Chopin nocturnes). I just lose interest and just give up when I force myself to do the songs on my grade books in a progressive manner. Will this severely hamper my progress?

Like the others said there isn't a definite answer to this, which means the answer is NOT no.  But it seems improbable to me and here's why I think that.

First off, 30 minutes of focused productive practice is a LOT!  Most people probably sit at the bench 3 hours to get that 30 minutes.  If 30 minutes is what you have, then you know you can't do just what you find fun.  You need to practice the right stuff, correctly, and with full attention.

I don't do that.  I play some stuff that I need to improve on, and some stuff that is fun.  Most of us do that.  (IMO there are three modes of playing:  practice, perform, play.  You don't have time to do practice or play.)  But you can't if you want to get to that level on 30 minutes.  You will have to discipline yourself.

Second, you will have to work on your weaknesses, and that isn't pleasant either.  And, until you get to concert pianist level, you're incapable of fully analyzing your weaknesses.  Sorry, but you need a teacher for at least an occasional review, and it sounds like you don't have one.  Nor would you do what they say, probably.   :) video of yourself helps some, but there's no substitute for a good teacher. 

You have to practice the right stuff - for your developmental stage and your weak areas, and you have to practice correctly.  And that's the third point.  If you have a fundamental flaw in your mechanics, then 30 minutes or 6 hours won't matter.  You can't get there playing incorrectly.  Actually 30 minutes has an advantage here.  You'll ingrain bad habits more slowly, and you're unlikely to get a cumulative trauma disorder like carpal tunnel. 
Tim

Offline quantum

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #8 on: August 01, 2020, 07:12:49 PM »
I equate progress to accomplishing goals.  So if you can accomplish goals within in 30 minute time slots, then you have the potential to make progress within said time slots. 

timothy42b touches on many important points.  When your practice time is limited you don't have the luxury of wading through music to satisfy your contentment, you need to get to work quickly and efficiently.  That will mean focused work on the hard parts, things that are difficult to you, things that challenge you both physically and cognitively.  You will need to train yourself not to play through the easy parts of the music that give immediate gratification, but to do focused work on the parts that challenge you. 

Having six hours a day won't help you make progress if you waste it with mindless doodling.  It would be much better to have 30 minutes of quality, focused practice. 

In a number of professional ensembles I've worked with, we have done things like learn entire pieces in 5-10 min time slots, or prepare a one hour concert from sight reading to performance ready in 5 days.  Though, these are people that have worked at achieving a discipline on their instruments and music learning workflow.  A lot can be accomplished even with less time than you have allotted to yourself.

Can you make progress with 30 minutes a day of practice?  If you put in place the proper mindset and work ethic, the possibility is there.  However, you have to work for it. 

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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #9 on: August 02, 2020, 02:46:46 AM »
My aim is to eventually be able to play the CHopin Etudes or some of Rachmaninoff's works in 10 years' time. ..... I dont aim to play perfectly, but rather to play at a modest level..... I'm aiming for a modest goal of just being your average 'mediocre' amateur pianist who will miss some notes here and there...
Playing the Chopin etudes or Rachmaninov does not represent the "average mediocre amateur pianist". I'd say the average pianist from my experiences over the years is probably around grade 3-4 level AMEB.

I also don't feel comfortable forcing myself to play according to Grade books, I just prefer to find songs that seem relatively doable online and just choose randomly.
You don't have to only choose pieces from exam although if you read through the piece selections for grades in the AMEB syllabus there are a large number of works to choose from and the vast majority are not in the books they sell.

I just lose interest and just give up when I force myself to do the songs on my grade books in a progressive manner. Will this severely hamper my progress?
You need to be able to study works which might not totally interest you since they help develop your skills. Even if you are looking outside of grade books you will find a lot of material which challenges your ability to maintain interest. For example sight reading training will require you to study a lot of works which might not sound very interesting at all. Shaping technique during early stages may sometimes require particular exercises to meditate upon which also is not very interesting, mastering your scales, arpeggios and chords also may not be the most interesting thing in the world to do either and it will be to your disadvantage to lose interest with them especially if you have not mastered them.
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Offline fftransform

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #10 on: August 03, 2020, 05:10:18 AM »
I am a firm believer that you don't really make "backsliding" progress when you learn something.

Tell that to Pogorelich.

@ the OP, no, you will never play the Chopin Etudes with 30 minutes a day at the keyboard.  Period.  Either satisfy yourself with lower goals - there is still a ton of great music that doesn't have such transcendental technical requirements - or get serious.

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #11 on: August 03, 2020, 06:23:26 AM »
Tell that to Pogorelich.
Interesting. What did Pogorelich have to say about it?

Again, I concede that at the level of Chopin etudes, backsliding progress might be a thing. I play a couple levels below that, and it has never posed an issue for me personally.

Offline pianolover91

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #12 on: August 04, 2020, 08:19:44 AM »
There is no such thing as "the correct exercise duration". Everyone has to decide for themselves what feels good and when you want to take a break. Beginners are advised to plan a daily practice time of at least 15 to 30 minutes on the piano.

So you can make progress in a short amount of time. Just play and practice when you feel like it. And if it gets too much for you, then you pause again. Above all, it should be fun! :)

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #13 on: August 04, 2020, 12:13:51 PM »
Just play and practice when you feel like it.

That takes willpower and that never works.

Set a time schedule and make your practice a habit, and you'll do it without all the angst.

Read these two books:
Atomic Habits by James Clear
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. 
Available at your local library, on Overdrive or Hoopla, etc. 
Tim

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #14 on: August 04, 2020, 03:47:51 PM »
That takes willpower and that never works.

Set a time schedule and make your practice a habit, and you'll do it without all the angst.

Read these two books:
Atomic Habits by James Clear
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. 
Available at your local library, on Overdrive or Hoopla, etc. 
Not really. You can't progress as a 100% impulsive madman of course, unless you have an incredible obsession with the piano. But I have never set a schedule for myself, nor have many others. It just depends on your personality...

And btw, although pop science books can be useful, they are far from authoritative. People tend to read too much into them.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #15 on: August 04, 2020, 05:37:04 PM »
Nothing wrong with only practicing when you feel like it. You do have look a little deeper and determine what would encourage you to feel like practicing more. I think if the answer to that is too evasive taking up a different activity might be a better idea. It's not really a good situation to often find yourself practicing when you don't feel like it, although that trains your discipline a great deal you really need to do activities you predominantly enjoy. Being frustrated is fine but you should be more excited to rise to the challenge and solve it rather than simply be beaten to a pulp.
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Offline timothy42b

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #16 on: August 05, 2020, 05:34:37 PM »


And btw, although pop science books can be useful, they are far from authoritative. People tend to read too much into them.

I agree and rarely recommend a pop science book, but the advice in these was generally not too bad, and in line from what I remember from grad school.  I do know that piano students who intend to fit practice into spare moments instead of having a plan rarely ever find the time. 

Most self help books are like New Years resolutions - you couldn't follow them the past ten years but somehow this time it will be different!  Apparently only 7% of gym members know their gym was closed for COVID this year. 
Tim

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #17 on: August 05, 2020, 05:36:00 PM »
I do sometimes recommend more technical books with actual information in them.

The number of people who've actually read something I suggested remains zero. 
Tim

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #18 on: August 05, 2020, 06:42:43 PM »
I agree and rarely recommend a pop science book, but the advice in these was generally not too bad, and in line from what I remember from grad school.  I do know that piano students who intend to fit practice into spare moments instead of having a plan rarely ever find the time. 
I might take a look.

Apparently only 7% of gym members know their gym was closed for COVID this year.
What?! Even I knew my gym was closed for COVID, and I don't even have one! ;D


About the schedule part -- I usually play the piano when I feel like it and when I have time for it, although I do make sure to put in at least an hour or two each day. My practice tends to resemble this: (Not to say that I play remotely as well, but it's a good example of how people practice without scheduling their time imo.)


Offline timothy42b

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Re: Is it possible to make progress with only 30 minutes a day?
«Reply #19 on: August 05, 2020, 08:24:02 PM »
The joke is that everybody joins a gym in January with good intentions.  this is finally going to be the year they get in shape.

By March their good intentions have gone by the wayside. 
Tim